Reading the words "Coca-Cola" in the Coke logo seems superfluous, counter-intuitive, but so does approaching its' stylised calligraphy of white-and-red from the perspective of an art critic. On one level, the words in the logo, "Coca-Cola", are made out of the stuff of ordinary paragraphs in a newspaper but the logo inhabits a different space. In its ubiquity, Coke inhabits the landscape, both in our physical world and our cultural understanding of it.
Although we can't help but start by reading the "gospel" in Gospel, doing so makes us feel like we have missed something. It's as though we are faced with a glittering Coke billboard, but have managed to somehow forget to see it in familiar terms, and are left, dumbly reading its' letters, attempting a visual analysis.
The strong diagonal, italicised lettering and positioning of the arrows in Gospel evoke speed and movement. It is often interpreted as a play on the crucifixion, but like Ruscha's penchant for puns and wordplay, his works are well known for being multifaceted and a little ambiguous, they allow a multiplicity of approaches. As someone for whom the word 'gospel' is empty of religious meaning, I tend to see this work in terms of a critique of the Wild West. The conventional truth or gospel of settlers and pioneers taming a barren countryside being pierced by the many arrows of dispossessed native inhabitants.
Much of Ruscha's ouvre is informed by a sense of landscape, of the way even wild landscapes like the legendary 'Wild West' are inhabited and remade into ordinary, everyday connections and meanings. In this Art Set, I try to explore some of the approaches to Gospel through the Art Gallery of New South Wales collection.